Like CBD, Rick Simpson oil (RSO oil) is a well-known oil derived from the cannabis plant, but it’s important to know the difference. What is RSO oil? And how is it different from CBD oil?
While researching cannabis-based wellness products such as Cannabidiol (CBD), many people come across RSO oil and believe it to be similar. But while they both originate from the cannabis plant, the end products are two very different things.
RSO and CBD are both derived from cannabis plant, but unlike CBD, RSO oil is high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main intoxicating compound identified in cannabis, making it illegal in many countries around the world.
The story behind Rick Simpson oil
RSO was originally produced by a Canadian engineer, Rick Simpson, who was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma in 2003.
Medicinal cannabis was legal in Canada at the time, but few doctors were willing to prescribe. After reading studies which demonstrated that cannabis could potentially slow tumour growth in mice, Simpson began producing his own cannabis oil (which would later become known worldwide as RSO).
Simpson claims that applying the oil to his tumour completely cured his cancer, however, this has never been scientifically proven. He later began producing the oil and providing it to other patients free of charge. It became renowned on a more global scale after Simpson produced a documentary about his story in 2008.
Simpson has now stepped back from his life as a public cannabis activist, but he has published a number of books and the recipe for RSO can still be found on his website. It was also recently announced that a new documentary is in the works.
Is there any truth behind the health claims?
Many people report that RSO oil has been helpful for treating a range of health conditions. As well as cancer, some claim that the oil can help manage epileptic conditions and other serious illnesses, but this has not yet been supported by human trials.
Cannabis can be an effective treatment for managing the symptoms and side-effects of cancer, such as pain management, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and as a part of palliative care.
While there is some early evidence to suggest some of the compounds in cannabis have potential to treat or even prevent tumour growth in some cancers, not enough clinical studies have been carried out to support this.
It’s also important to note that THC can be a proconvulsant, as well as an anticonvulsant. While some can be beneficial for seizure reduction in epilepsy, it can also increase the risk of seizures and should ideally only be taken under clinical guidance.
What is in RSO oil? And is it legal?
While there are some similarities, the difference between RSO and Cannabidiol-based oils really becomes clear when you look at the cannabinoid content.
When made correctly, RSO is a full marijuana extract cannabis oil from Indica-heavy strains and contains much higher THC levels than any Cannabidiol based products available on the market. According to Simpson it is very important that RSO is made from the Indica-heavy strains. This is because Sativa-type strains produce an oil that is an excellent anti-depressant and tends to cheer you up. However, indica relaxes you, allowing you to sleep deeper and longer, which is important for the healing process.
RSO oil can contain anywhere around 600-800 mg (60-80%) THC in a single 1g syringe and very little CBD content, depending on the strain used. According to Simpson, it is these high levels of THC which makes it so effective in treating cancer and other diseases. But this also means that the oil remains illegal in many countries and as a result these claims have not been scientifically proven.
RSO is traditionally extracted from a marijuana plant utilising a solvent to extract cannabinoids known as Naphtha, a highly flammable liquid made from distilling crude oil, which is used in products such as, anti-freeze, lubricants and greases, washing and cleaning fluids and welding and soldering products. Other solvents like ethanol or butane are sometimes also used.
However, Naphtha is a highly hazardous substance which can be harmful to the consumer if any residue solvent is left in the extract, and may even increase the risk of developing cancer.
In addition to this when using Naphtha or Ethanol as a solvent, during solvent recovery stage almost all of the terpenes will be removed, because terpenes are very volatile molecules especially monoterpenes and they easily evaporate. All of these compounds have their own therapeutic benefits and work in synergy to produce the best effects, in what is known as the ‘entourage effect’.
While all extraction methods have pros and cons, CO2 extraction, when done correctly, is cleaner and greener, as it evaporates more easily and has no direct effect on the ozone layer.
What are the legal alternatives to RSO oil?
The closest legally available alternative to Rick Simpson oil vs CBD would be a whole-plant Cannabidiol-based oil, containing trace levels of THC. While you won’t experience the effects of THC, if you seek out our hybrid balanced whole-plant hemp extract Cannabidiol based Cannabis oil, it will contain high levels of terpenes and minor cannabinoids, all of which contribute to the ‘entourage effect’, bringing you the greatest potential benefit.
CBD has no psychoactive effects, meaning it won’t leave consumers feeling that ‘high’ we usually associate with cannabis and as it’s legal it is readily available from high street retailers and online in the UK, Europe and many other countries around the world.
While the research on CBD remains in its infancy, there is also a growing evidence base to support its safety and efficacy in helping to manage a range of health issues.